Friday, 11 February 2011

And in which relationship lies the problem

In an article on Research, Jonathan Knott writes about the relationship twixt politicians, the media and opinion polls. From this article two important points stand out:
"In a representative democracy, the media plays a vital role in representing politics to the voters, and the voters to politicians. And opinion research, used intelligently, should provide crucial evidence in helping politicians and the media to understand what the country is thinking........An added factor is the increasing determination of political parties to control the narrative, favouring journalists who are willing to go along with their line. Journalists fear marginalisation, while politicians are aware of the damage a hostile press can do. Who is leading whom is not always clear, but the two are certainly increasingly close."
Until the second part of the extract above is corrected, the first cannot be implemented.

The fact that journalists are dependent on 'political access' for their stories means that journalists will never, ever be able to write with honesty and thus inform the public, unless they adhere to the principle of 'honest journalism'. The fact that political parties feel they must control the 'narrative', in other words lie, or semi-lie, to the people, means that 'open government' can never, ever be introduced. So we have a 'chicken & egg' situation which can only be broken by journalists writing the truth and, in so doing, 'educate' their readership about the duplicitous methods that politicians employ; or politicians break the habit of a lifetime and 'come clean' on their verbal or written 'outages'. If politicians had nothing to hide, why would they need Special Advisers (SPADs) or 'Spin Doctors'?

Opinion pollsters are, to my mind, as guilty as the media in not presenting the facts to the public - especially in the area where the question put may leave no room for the responder to express the choice they would like to make.Consider the situation encompassing a question on which party would a vote be cast where the choice is Lib/Lab/Con. A responder may well wish to vote for UKIP, The Libertarian Party UK (LPUK) or the BNP; but because that additional option is not available plumps for one of those given. Even where the question of additional parties is put, how many pollsters actually, in their 'headline findings' provide details of the percentage opinions of what the Lib/Lab/Con term 'minor parties'? Invariably they are included in 'Others', so how does an electorate know what increase in popularity LPUK, or UKIP, has amongst the electorate - because how many of the electorate actually bother to delve deeper and read the 'findings'?

Opinion pollsters are liable to 'political pressure' in the same manner as are journalists. Political parties use opinion pollsters for their own findings and 'publicity ends', so if some pollsters do not, or cannot, deliver the result required, it is obvious that they will not be used. The cynic in me acknowledges that opinion pollsters wish to maximise their profits, being in 'business', so the question has to be asked how far will they go in 'framing the question' in order to produce the result required by those who commission the poll?

Where the Lib/Lab/Con 'control' both the media and opinion pollsters, what chance is there for 'transparency' in the media and opinion pollsters?

Which begs the question whether "Newspeak" has already arrived?

What do you think? As they used to say in examination papers when I was at school, where just a statement was reproduced, followed by the word discuss;



Gillig said...

Is there really a party called LUPK?

WitteringsfromWitney said...

G: Oops, typo again! Try LPUK - aka Libertarian Party UK!

Apologies to you and everyone else - want a job as a proof-reader?

Gillig said...

Is there really a party called LPUK?
If yes, do they have a manifesto?

WitteringsfromWitney said...

G: See:

Only too happy to be of service, as they say.......

Mind you, having a vested interest, again to coin a phrase, try


Tufty said...

I’m not sure about opinion polls. The range of possible answers is tightly defined by the questions, so nuanced views are not picked up. They are devised to answer specific questions posed by whoever is paying for the poll. Suppose citizens are more inclined to ask their own questions rather than answer a pollster’s questions. What then?

As far as I can see, the nuanced views of a modern voter are not captured by polling, even the views of those who don’t pay much attention to politics. As the internet allows voters to be better informed, this problem will become more obvious. These days, for example, many bloggers are clearly better informed than the average politician or mainstream journalist. Their range of interests seems to be wider, their analytical skills more developed and their sources of information more extensive and better researched.

So how do we factor this in? How to the political and bureaucratic elite handle a situation where a substantial proportion of the electorate is better informed than they are? How do they handle a situation where this trend becomes more and more obvious? Not by traditional polling, that’s for sure. Only by devising ways whereby citizens set the agenda will politics become relevant again.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

"They are devised to answer specific questions posed by whoever is paying for the poll."

T: I was stopped and asked which of the three main parties would I vote for and my response of 'none' was classed as don't know. On such misinformation are percentage leads written about and used to influence the population.

Gillig said...

Who are the third main party?
Is it now;

WitteringsfromWitney said...

G: that order could well be right.

gillig said...

Have you a comment on UKIP joining psEUdoparl?

WitteringsfromWitney said...

g: Nope, not really. It is just another aspect of Facebook, is it not?

Personally, I wish they would devote their energies elsewhere, but hey, what the hell do I know?